Welcome back, friend, how was your Halloween? Filled with sweet things and laughter, I hope! Yes, I know, I know… you’re supposed to scare and be scared not laugh. But where’s the fun in that? 😉
For Abbida and Lian the worst is not over yet, so let’s pick up the story where we left it last time:
If you are new to my story, please consider starting with Chapter 1 🙂
Worlds Rising: Rebellion
Chapter 11, Part 2
Warily, Abbida hovered her hands over Lian’s wound, then dipped the tip of the knife on the blood-caked rim. A big chunk of fabric came off instantly. Startled she backed away. Lian had not been exaggerating! Abbida rubbed her brow with her free hand. It couldn’t be helped, the shirt had to come off, and there was nobody else to do it. She nodded fiercely to herself.
More carefully yet, she started cutting off tiny bits of fabric and realized quickly, there was no way she could avoid cutting away some burnt skin, as well. She cast a quick glance at Lian’s face to see how she was holding up. Would she be okay?
“What?” Lian said, grimacing. “Is it bad?”
“It’s… pretty torn up.”
Abbida didn’t have the heart to tell her exactly how bad it looked… and smelled. Lian should know well enough the damage those guns could do to a human body. She bit her lips. With the next cut a piece of blackened skin came off, too, and Lian moaned. Her eyes rolled back, and she slumped to the side. Abbida jerked back, almost cutting herself. Careful! Keep it together!
She positioned Lian so that she couldn’t sag away again. Then she took a few deep breaths. They might be running out of time, but right now nothing mattered, but saving Lian’s life. Blocking any other thoughts from her mind, Abbida resumed her work. Piece by piece, the burnt fabric came off, revealing raw, seared flesh, now starting to bleed. Abbida bit her lips. She ripped open some packs of bandages, pressed some gauze on and was searching the packs for something to tape it with, when she noticed the material sealing itself. Nice!
As far as she could tell, the wound was shallow, no bones sticking out, no vitals damaged. At least not from being shot. Lian might have broken some ribs when she crashed to the ground. But there was really nothing Abbida could do about that. At least, mother Marja’s first aid lessons had proven useful.
Lian’s shirt was torn up, but there was some soft clean cloth in the medi-kit with which to wrap her upper body. There, that should do it. Abbida helped Lian back into her jacket and tenderly let her down into the grass. She found some leaves to clean the knife with, and the blood came off nice and easy. Her hands were a different story. Scrubbing her fingers and palms as best she could, Abbida longed for another dip in the stream. She sighed.
Instead, she got up and cut some sturdy saplings and willow rods. The knife’s blade went through wood as if it were water, and she had to be careful not to use too much force. After she was done she let the blade snap back into the hilt and weighed it in her hand. If only she could keep it. She pocketed it for now, vowing to give it back later.
Once again, mother Marja’s lessons came in handy: Back in the day her old teacher had almost given up on teaching Abbida how to weave baskets. Now she used what little she remembered to twist and loop the rods into a framework for a stretcher. Silently, Abbida apologized for having been an insolent student. If she ever made it back to the village, she would formally thank Marja for teaching her. Of course, back then finding and cutting the wicker rods had been a much more difficult task for a child.
She felt the knife hilt in her pocket and pulled it out again. Was it true, it cut through rock? Should she try it? She didn’t want to dull the edge if she failed, but still… Before she knew it she’d pressed the safety lever once more and the blade snapped out again. Fingers tingling, Abbida watched the strange bluish tint glimmering in the moonlight. She glanced at Lian who was still out. Would she approve?
It was her who’d brought up the idea in the first place, wasn’t it?
Abbida licked her lips. Fingering the hilt, rolling it over in her hand, watching the edge gleam. So alien. If she only tried once? She’d make sure not to use too much pressure. That couldn’t hurt, could it?
She chose a nearby boulder, about the size of a man, and after a moment’s hesitation poked it gingerly with the blade’s tip. It went right in, up to the hilt, and Abbida almost lost her footing. Woah! She pulled the blade out and eyed it with all new respect. This knife was as deadly a weapon as any gun! In hindsight, she almost felt sick of how she’d been using it on Lian just a while ago without thinking much of it.
After this, she felt reluctant to use it again, but she still needed a rope if she was going to pull Lian’s stretcher. And the only rope in sight was hanging from the wrecked ship. No way would she make it all the way up there to untie it. She needed to climb as far as she could manage and cut the rope off. With her attached to it. So much fun.
Fine. All right. You can do it! She’d just have to be careful as hell.
A moment later she dangled from the rope like a sack of potatoes, groping above her head, latching on for another pull, flailing her legs, huffing, sweating and slipping, heart racing. Come to think of it, she hoped a sack of potatoes would be doing none of these things… Despite it all, absurd images flooded her mind and made her giggle hysterically. Good thing, Cole couldn’t see her now; he’d tease her to no end. But she’d manage this time, she had to!
She’d struggled her way up about two times her own height when the muscles of her arms and legs threatened to give in. There was no way she could climb any higher. Looking down, Abbida hesitated. That was an awfully deep drop. She was losing her grip and if at all possible her heartbeat picked up pace.
Better be quick now, or all of this had been for nothing. On the count of three… one, two… She let go with one trembling hand and reached for the knife in her belt. One click and the blade snapped out. A fresh rush of adrenalin bolstered her up to raise it, cut through the rope and slip the blade back into the hilt in one move.
There was no preparing herself for the impact. One moment she was in the air, and in the next her feet hit the ground hard. Her knees buckled, she toppled sideways and tried rolling over her shoulder. Instead, she landed flat on her back, the air being pressed from her lungs with a hiss and a groan. For a moment she just lay there. Tried to assess the state of her body. Arms, legs, head. She wiggled her toes. All intact. A few scratches and bruises was all. With a sigh she picked herself up and, cradling the rope like a trophy, limped back to where Lian was lying flat out.
One end of the rope she looped around the head of the stretcher and tightened it fiercely. Then, finally, she slumped to the ground and allowed herself a breather. Overhead the sky was taking on a purplish hue and the noises of the jungle changed subtly as the nocturnal hunters turned in to make way for daytime creatures. There was a new, heavy scent in the air, from myriads of flowers opening their buds with the rising of dawn. Abbida pinched herself. There it was, a new day, and she was still alive. She leaned back against the tree next to Lian and closed her eyes.
“Wake up, Abbida!”
Somebody nudged her shoulder and Abbida startled. Had she been sleeping? How could she fall asleep in this situation! She jumped to her feet, and brought up her fists. But there was no one. Lian sat next to her, resting her back against that same tree, smiling crookedly.
Abbida wiped her face. “You’re back.”
“You saved my life… Thank you,” Lian said, her voice sounding strained.
Lost for words, Abbida hitched a shoulder.
Lian pressed her elbows against the tree’s trunk and tried pushing herself up, tensed and sunk back. “Damn. We need to get out of here,” she muttered.
She was obviously in no condition to go anywhere, and at this rate her wound might start bleeding again if she overexerted herself. On the other hand they’d been pushing their luck as it was.
“I’ve got you covered,” Abbida said, bashfully waving at her makeshift stretcher which looked even cruder in the first hints of daylight. Lian let out a sigh. It might have been relief as well as frustration, but she didn’t protest when Abbida gently placed an arm around her shoulders and stabilized her from the side, carefully avoiding touching her injuries. Thus, they managed to settle Lian onto the stretcher, Abbida all the while hoping dearly, it would not come apart when tested.
Panting, Lian lay her head back and closed her eyes.
Abbida stepped into the loop she’d made from the other end of the rope and pulled it up over her torso, stepping away a few paces to straighten the cord. “On the count of three, all right? Hold tight. This will be a rough ride.”
Lian managed a nod, but didn’t open her eyes. Her breath came ruggedly and fresh sweat pelted her forehead.
Never in a million linears would Abbida have expected someone as delicate as Lian to be this heavy. To keep moving, she had to brace her feet against the ground and throw in her whole weight. After only a few steps her shoulders and thighs were protesting the unaccustomed labor, and she didn’t even want to think about what she was doing to her back.
At least, the sun finally rose. By the time they reached the camp–deserted, thank the stars!–the sky was shimmering in pale orange and pink hues. Lovely and peaceful, as if nothing had ever happened. As if her life hadn’t changed drastically for the second time in only as many days. She didn’t even blink an eye at the thought.
You’re growing up, Cole would have said.
Who was still missing.
One thing at a time, she told herself. Once she had Lian safely back at the village she could go looking for him. Though, as it was she wasn’t sure they’d make it through the swamps in this manner. Abbida gulped. At least they had a gun and hell of a knife this time. Crocodiles and snakes better look out!
“Where’d you get this gun, anyway?” she asked, waving at Lian’s holster.
“It’s my service weapon.”
Abbida’s feet faltered.
“You’re… a soldier?”
~ to be continued! ~
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